Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Hidden Face of Foreign Aid Work

There are so many things that could be said about this article. But I will focus on the main points. That of the non-profit world existing as a profit making industry. And yes, some will argue in countries that are void of sustainable economies, any industry is good. But we must ask who this industry really benefits and who it does not. If our foreign aid dollars are going into sushi and SUVs instead of material aid for those in need - what good is that doing. How much do those in the non-profit, international sector depend on poverty and crisis for their own livelihood? Thinking of some of the recent posts on Haiti, what policies are the World Bank, IMF and United States enforcing that create the poverty expats get paid to try to alleviate. On the Haiti note, my friend who recently returned from 6 months there noticed a stark contrast in the living situation of herself and the World Bank folks who worked there that would be reflective of what this article is about. Sorry, this isn't clear. Read the article, ask yourself some questions, see where it gets you.

In Postwar Liberia, Paradise Amid the Poverty
Feelings Mixed as Aid Workers Live Well

By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, May 30, 2008; A01

MONROVIA, Liberia -- The second sushi bar to open in ragged postwar Liberia did not settle for having its chefs wear simple T-shirts, or for serving $25 worth of sliced fish on plain white plates.

Instead, the Barracuda Bar -- the new favorite hangout of ambassadors, U.N. officials and legions of aid workers whose shiny white SUVs jam the parking lot most nights -- opted to dress its staff in Japanese-style robes and red bandannas. Bigger orders of salmon and yellowtail arrived not on flatware but on little wooden sushi boats. Lobsters languished sullenly in a tank near the door, waving their antennae as customers walked by.

As this impoverished country climbs its way back from 13 years of civil war with the tiniest of steps, a boom is underway in the industries that cater to the rarified tastes of thousands of mostly European and U.S. expatriates who have come to help since peace arrived in 2003. The increasingly visible splendors available to this relatively wealthy group have left some Liberians wondering whether the foreigners are here to serve the nation or themselves.

"They drive the best of car, go to the best of entertainment center," said Allen Weedor, 42, the Liberian manager of a modest bar in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of town. "You can't really see what they've done." Full Story

Thursday, May 29, 2008

In Response...

So shortly after reading and posting that last article, I came across a recent interview on Democracy Now! with Paul Farmer, founder of Partners in Health and the author of several books addressing social justice and health care. I found the discussion pertinent to the other article and wanted to share. In this particular section he talks about the system they developed in Haiti and how it in many ways provides better care than what is offered in the United States...

And the system that we built up in the ’80s, really confronting another disease, tuberculosis, relied very heavily on community health workers, who we trained and, more to the point, we paid. You know, we thought, you know, do we expropriate the labor of the poor, or do we actually pay them, like someone like I would get paid a fortune to do consulting work like this. And we said no, no, no, it’s clear they have to be our employees and coworkers. So it worked great. And it worked great for tuberculosis. It worked great for other chronic diseases. And when AIDS came along, what we did was to say, well, clearly, we need to take the same system, which is free diagnosis and free care to the patient, because this is a public health problem, and they have a community health worker, you know, visiting them.
Entire Interview

The Wealthiest Country in the World?

On my daily rounds of BBC news, this item caught my eye. I wish that I was surprised, but I am not.

Medical charity helping US poor

By Jonathan Beale
BBC News, Tennessee

Stan Brock is like a 21st-Century Florence Nightingale.

The DC3 used by RAM to deliver medical support
RAM's vintage plane was used to drop troops on D-Day

He started a charity - Remote Area Medical (RAM) - more than 20 years ago to bring relief to those cut off from healthcare.

Originally it was to help poor tribes in the former British colony of Guyana, South America.

That is where he lived after leaving Preston, Lancashire, more than half a century ago - he still is a British citizen.

But now Stan spends most of his time bringing relief to the richest country in the world. Full article